Casino Lawsuit threatens First Casino For Massachusetts Licence

LawFuel.com – It’s been a long road for the Indian tribe seeking the first southeastern Massachusetts casino licence, but a lawsuit threatens the deal with a tribe that’s been excluded from the process threatens the licence.

A path to the state’s first tribal casino appears to be clearing faster than expected, but a potential lawsuit from an excluded tribe still threatens to complicate or even delay the process.

The Mashpee Wampanoag moved swiftly to take advantage of a provision in the state’s new gaming law that gives a leg up to a federally recognized Indian tribe in gaining the sole southeastern Massachusetts casino license. The Cape Cod-based tribe acquired an option on land in Taunton, negotiated a host community agreement with city leaders, and on June 9 received a vote of confidence from residents in a nonbinding referendum.

State officials including Gov. Deval Patrick have signaled that a compact is likely to be reached with the Mashpee by the July 31 deadline set in the casino law. And the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is set to open hearings Wednesday on the tribe’s application to place the Taunton land into federal trust, another crucial requirement.

By contrast, the Wampanoag Aquinnah has hit nothing but roadblocks in its casino quest, reports Boston.com

Voters in two towns, Lakeville and Freetown, dealt the tribe resounding defeats in nonbinding votes asking whether they would welcome a casino in their communities. But even more damaging to the Aquinnah’s hopes has been the state’s steadfast refusal to negotiate a compact, a position Massachusetts officials tie to a 1983 land settlement that secured tribal lands on Martha’s Vineyard.

The state contends that in agreeing to that settlement, which was later approved by Congress, the Aquinnah ceded future rights to tribal gaming on their lands or any future lands they might acquire. The Aquinnah strongly dispute that.

Whether the Aquinnah succeed with their casino lawsuit is yet to be seen but it is a rocky start to the casino licensing process for the State’s first licence in the region.